Most of the Moms I talk to about cars are looking for the option of hauling more kids. To haul more people, you need more space and the third row is the way to go. This week I drove the 2011 Chevrolet Traverse, a larger crossover with a third row and seating for 7 or 8.
- Strong & rounded styling
- Lift gate goes way up for easy loading of bikes or Irish Wolfhounds
- Good family car for those needing a 3rd row
- Good cargo capacity for luggage, projects, or dogs
- Decent Handling
- Cool Mom Factor: 7
(Scale of 1-10, with 1=Pacer and 10=Ironman II Audi R8 Spyder)
In "The Olden Days" (my kids' term for anything that happened before 1999) we could always ride in the Way Back of the station wagon if all seats were taken. Luckily there are seat belt laws now and all passengers need to be buckled in. (I can't imagine the stress of having kids roaming free in the car while I drove. They stress me out when they're strapped in so tight they can't move!) My current crossover can fit 3 in the backseat, as long as one doesn't need a car seat or booster. If an adult needs to squeeze in between my 2 kids, he or she better have narrow hips and shoulders. I totally understand how a third row feels like a necessity if you have more than one child. The 2011 Chevy Traverse has a 3rd row and can be configured for 7 or 8 seats and still has decent storage capacity behind the 3rd row.
Safety & Comfort are Standard
The Traverse comes in 4 models: LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ. All models have standard safety and security features that we expect on all vehicles now: numerous airbags for front and rear passengers, 4 anti-lock brakes, and stability control. I don't know from experience, but I imagine that the stability and traction control on this heavy car will help it perform well in the snow. The Traverse also has standard tire pressure monitoring and OnStar which includes built-in sensors in the vehicle that can alert OnStar of a crash if you can't reach the button on the rearview mirror.
I liked the Traverse 2LT that I tested, but I didn't love it. It handled well on the highway and in town, and it maneuvered very well through the Target parking lot. I appreciate a tight turning radius and the Traverse passed that test with an A. (I am currently the Queen of 3-Point Turns and am ready to relinquish my title.) The acceleration is good and I had no problem merging with traffic on 101. I'm not a big fan of how the gas pedal responded to my input: it didn't coast as quickly as I like, and it took a moment to accelerate after I pressed down.
Travel in Comfort
As for traveling with families, the Traverse will get you there safely and without being too cramped. The second row seats fold rather easily with the pull of a lever to expose an easy access to the 3rd row. I don't know if kids younger than 12 can fold these seats themselves, so pick up and drop off may get tricky. You can get sweet captain's chairs with a nice center console on some models. A DVD system is optional with an overhead display or you can splurge on headrest displays so the Prince & Princess don't have to strain their little necks to see the screen. (Can you tell I'm jealous and would love headrest displays in my car?) Another benefit for the children is a two-panel sunroof called the SkyScape (sliding for the front and fixed over the 2nd row). Those in the 3rd row don't get much light from the sunroof or the windows, so parents need to consider seat assignments carefully to avoid tears. This folding seat can get a bit tricky if you have a car seat installed, and the sliding mechanism can get hung up on the 2nd row floor mat. When you have little ones, such hassles get very frustrating.
The technology on my test car included Bluetooth for hands-free phone use, satellite radio, great Bose speakers, and a USB port for my iPod. I didn't have a cord to connect my iPhone to see how it works as both a phone and a music source. There was available navigation, and a rear view camera with a large touch screen in the center console. I didn't get any sort of lesson on how to use it all, and could work and find everything except the volume controls on the steering wheel. They were there, I just didn't see them.
A Good OptionIf you're looking for a decent crossover with a 3rd row, you should look at the Traverse. I'm not in love with it, but I can see where it fits. There just weren't enough "wow" features to give it a higher rating, plus the poor visibility and 3rd row seat functionality. I didn't have a great sales experience with my Traverse drive, so I'm not well-versed in all of it's features. I hope that when I go back to Novato Chevrolet this week to drive the smaller Equinox I will get a few more lessons on features and options. Both the Traverse and the Equinox pass my visual tests and are good looking cars that shouldn't embarrass your kids as you drive around town.
Photos by Erika Fish and from www.chevrolet.com.
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